If Monday’s Boston Marathon was the best race I’ve ever run (and it was), today’s Country Music Marathon in Nashville balanced things out because it might be the worst marathon I’ve ever run. I tried my best, but nothing went right — from before the start until the finish — and I struggled through a 3:34 today.
This race report will probably come off as a rant, but I’m not a big fan of Competitor (Rock ‘N Roll) events, and this one was another example why. In a nutshell, I don’t think Competitor cares about much other than over-hyping their events and squeezing every last dollar from everybody, and as a runner who is more interested in a race than an event, these aren’t my cup of tea.
As is always the case, the expo/bib pickup was a nightmare. Traffic all over the place, $10 to park, and I couldn’t let any of my friends pick it up for me. They have this policy because they want as much foot traffic through their expo, so they can charge a ton for the booths, and that’s understandable. But I just get annoyed when it costs me $10 to pick up my bib.
I’ll also admit that I’m pretty bitter with how they “help” charities. I put all the Competitor events on my list because they’re so big, so I thought that would be a great idea. But the break they offered me to build a team was something like a 50 percent surcharge on race entries and in exchange they’d give me 10 percent off a $2,000 expo booth and they’d help me with PR (not that I can’t contact media on my own). Such a deal, and it kind of left me with a bad taste in my mouth last year. But whatever.
I figure that for all the money they bring in, they’d be able to put on a perfect event. I got within 1.5 miles of where I parked 90 minutes before the start. The parking and finish are at the Tennessee Titans’ football stadium, so it’s built to handle an influx of 80,000 or so people. 30,000 should be easy. But I moved only a mile over the next hour. It got me into a cranky mood. The last 1/2 mile only took out 10 minutes, and I parked at 6:40 for a 7 a.m. start. About five minutes later, I got a phone call informing me that they bumped the start up 15 minutes so they could beat the thunderstorms that were rolling in.
I still had to take the shuttle over to the start and drop off my gear bag, so I knew it would be fighting through crowds for a while. When I got over there and dropped off my bag, I could see that people were waiting in the corrals and not running, so I thought maybe the race hadn’t started. I ran up to the front and felt queasy for some reason. I had a little trouble catching my breath, but I was able to get within four or five rows from the start, and about 30 seconds after I got there, right at 7 a.m., we went.
I was happy because I actually started on time and wasn’t going to have to fight through the traffic. But I heard the announcer say something about corral 15, and I realized I was in the second wave. I saw a sea of people about 1/4 mile ahead and knew I was in for a long day dodging. I was in a grumpy mood about it because of the traffic situation. I don’t know whose fault it was (by default, I blame Competitor — it’s their event), but I shouldn’t have had any issues making it to the start even by 6:45 when I was 1.5 miles from where I parked at 5:30.
I led the wave 2 pack right into the back of wave 1 and had to start weaving by about half a mile into the race. I couldn’t do anything to get in a groove and wasted a ton of energy slow down, speeding up and moving side-to-side. I enjoyed the first couple of miles of the course, because we hit the area of town where all the country bars are, but after that, I don’t remember much of the course.
To compound things, the weather was terrible for a marathon. That’s obviously not Competitor’s fault, but it added to the difficulty of the run. It was 68 degrees at the start and climbed into the low 70s. It was extremely humid — I’d say at least 90 percent.
I was dodging people for the first 11 miles. I could tell that as I wasn’t able to get it going, I was falling apart at the same time. By about mile 10, I knew there was no way it was going to be a good day. I was thinking about how glad I am I’m running a ton of marathons this year. If this had been a goal race I’d been training for and focusing on, I would have been incredibly bummed. The word that kept coming to my head was “throwaway” … that’s what this race was for me. I knew I was going to continue to break down and fade, and I had to finish it just to finish it.
I kept pounding along because DNFing is not an option. If I was rich and just running for myself, I probably would have cut down to the half. But that’s not the case. Oh well.
At mile 18, I heard a police officer say there was a serious storm that was going to hit within 40 minutes. At 22, it started to rain. There was quite a bit of thunder and lightning and 24. We were on an out-and-back portion late and I could tell that they had re-routed people. A police officer drove by and warned us about the storm. I couldn’t tell what he said, but I knew I had to keep shuffling as fast as I could, because I didn’t want to get pulled from the course.
I wouldn’t have resisted the DNF, because my safety is way more important than the medal, but it would have been a major bummer to have a 25-mile DNF! The thunder and lightning kept coming rapidly up until the finish and I was thinking about a woman named Nancy Bennett, the wife of a football coach at my alma mater who was struck and killed by lightning while jogging in 1999. I just wanted to get in and done.
The rain turned into a downpour and I crossed the finish line 3:34 after I went through the start. It was an absolutely miserable and painful run, from 90 minutes before the start until the finish — an extremely difficult day that makes me wonder how lousy tomorrow is going to feel when I go 26.2 in Oklahoma City.
Oh well, another day, another marathon for Operation Jack. This isn’t supposed to be easy, otherwise nobody would be jumping on the bandwagon.
21 down, 39 to go!
Me with Operation Jack supporter Laura Sullivan at the finish. I met her in person in Jackson, Miss. in January and got to hang out with her, her husband and some of their friends in Nashville. She had a great time completing the half … it was awesome to see her at the finish!